MILAN, Italy -- Former alliance partners Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. are discussing ways to cooperate on future programs.
"It has been a continuing dialogue, especially on r&d," said Seita Kanai, Mazda's top r&d chief, during a press event here last week. "We are studying various possibilities."
Kanai said he talks monthly with Derrick Kuzak, Ford's product czar, about joint-venture programs to determine where there is "low-hanging fruit" for both companies.
"We have the attitude that we need to learn from each other," Kanai said.
Ford first took an equity stake in Mazda in 1979 and brought it under Ford's control in 1996 as the Hiroshima-based carmaker struggled to survive. That 30-year relationship included co-development and sharing of such things as pickups, platforms, engines and SUVs.
But by late 2008 Ford reduced its controlling one-third stake in Mazda to 13 percent to free up cash. Ford now owns about 11 percent of Mazda.
Kanai said both companies learned lessons from their previous joint ventures. "We decided to change the cooperation," he said. "There are projects which have merit in the short term that can be done in an easy manner."
Jim O'Sullivan, CEO of Mazda North American Operations, said the relationship between Mazda and Ford remains "very tight" and the two companies will "look at critical junctures and see where a partnership makes sense."
Late last month, the companies announced plans to spend $350 million on their Thailand joint venture's plant to build compact pickups in 2011. The investment will cover plant upgrades, supplier tooling and training.